Ravens' win revives flagging fan spirit

Purple is in again as playoff win leads to new Super dreams

January 14, 2002|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

What a difference a game makes.

Several hundred Baltimore Ravens fans who crammed into the Coliseum Sports Bar in Cockeysville to watch yesterday's game started the day ... well, a little nervous.

They chain-smoked cigarettes, nibbled on fried food and questioned whether their team had what it took to be a contender as the Ravens took the field in Miami for the first round of the playoffs.

But fans who spent much of the earlier part of the day with bruised spirits because of their team's inconsistent performance this year ended it with the same pride and Ravens bar chants that dominated last year's run to the Super Bowl.

"This is last year all over again," said Chuck Brooks, 26, of Dundalk, after the Ravens defeated the Miami Dolphins, 20-3. "We barely made it to the playoffs, but we are showing the world why we are the Super Bowl champs."

Now, the fans say, it's time to paint the town purple as the Ravens go on to face the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday.

"It's about time," said Tommy Rodgers, 44, of Timonium, watching the game during the fourth quarter on one of the bar's 98 television sets. "The Ravens are alive."

The mood started out much different.

After Jermaine Lewis fumbled the opening kick-off, the crowd hissed at the televisions in disgust.

That mood continued for most of the first quarter, with the only cheers being directed at one of the televisions playing the University of Maryland Terrapins' basketball game - and a close win over Georgia Tech.

"When you have a fumble on the first play, it's kind of scary," said Wanda Wennerholt, 47, of Lancaster, Pa., during the first quarter. "They look kind of lazy and don't have the drive, but they always pull it out - hopefully."

Mohammad Chaudhry, 30, of Owings Mills spent the first quarter talking with his friends about the "lack of energy" the Ravens appeared to have, compared to last year. "Last year we were on a high going into the playoffs, but this year we are backing into it, so it is not the same energy as last year," he said.

But the frustrated fans did not need to wait long before they saw a renewed vigor. By halftime, with the Ravens leading 7-3, a carnival atmosphere - chants, high-fives - re-emerged.

Rose Jackson, 66, of Pikesville has been a football fan since she was 5 years old, when she would listen to the Washington Redskins on the radio during the days before television.

Now a Ravens season-ticket holder, Jackson spent halftime plotting how she could get a ticket to Sunday's game in Pittsburgh.

"I would like to compliment Mr. Elvis, he is finally looking like a quarterback," Rose said, referring to quarterback Elvis Grbac, who has been criticized over his performance this season. "Today, this team is exciting and colorful. I would say it looks like the Ravens of old - last year."

Jackson predicted a surge in support for the Ravens this week as the team prepares for the archrival Steelers. The teams have met twice this year, with each winning one game.

The matchup against the Steelers, however, puts some Ravens fans in a quandary.

Janet Walman, 51, of Pikesville wore a Ravens jersey yesterday, but the former Pittsburgh resident said she will probably root for Steelers on Sunday.

But don't expect her to watch the game at the Coliseum Sports Bar.

"I was here when they played the Steelers [last month] and I cheered for the Steelers, and the other fans about attacked me," she said.

Kent Way, a 30-year-old Miami Dolphins fan from Loch Raven, found out yesterday what it was like to be in hostile territory during a Ravens football game. He was booed when he took off his leather jacket and displayed his Dolphins jersey.

"It's competition, you have to go into the heart of it," he said, as Ravens fan Rob Stankowski, 35, of White Marsh taunted him.

Fans said it is time for the city of Baltimore to again unify behind the Ravens.

That means it's time to bring out the Ravens car flags, shine the purple lights on downtown buildings and produce the homemade banners, the fans said.

"It is all about the atmosphere," said Senora Snowden, 40, of Edmondson Village.

Mayor Martin O'Malley issued a "newsflash" within minutes of the game's happy ending, saying he had ordered purple lighting for the City Hall dome, and for it "to remain awash in purple until the Ravens lose."

Purple also shined last night on the Baltimore County government complex in Towson.

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